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"950 ESPN's Flyers Reporter Mike Mreczko"
Philadelphia, PA • United States • 23 Years Old • Male
Good thing I didn't write this last night as I had planned... because the loss of Kimmo Timmonen certainly could have that much of an impact.

Was the layoff between the series a bad thing?
I really don't think so. Sure the Flyers were on a roll, but so were the Penguins. And with guys like Hatcher, Smith and others who are older and dinged up as virtually everyone is at this point in the season, the break and rest surely helps.
Even for Marty Biron. Sure he has been hotter than hell but lets keep in mind its still his first time being this deep into the season. I truly believe that those spells from Niittymaki during the year helped Biron physically during the stretch and now to be fresh. A couple of days off now will help too. Maybe its more than just a hot-streak for Biron. Maybe he has found a new level within himself. And I think he can keep it up now with a little recharging of the batteries IF the defense plays strong in front of him.

Anyone saying that Biron "standing on his head" is the key to this series is off base. And if it comes down to that, the Flyers are in for it because the Penguins have too much talent for it NOT to be a group effort. JUST AS if not MORE important than Biron in this series are the guys in front of him.

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What is the key to the series?
Special teams. Its that simple. The Flyers have taken more penalties than any other team in the post-season this year. They need to stay disciplined or Biron and Bernie Parent in the same net next to each other won't be able to stop Pittsburgh's power play if the Flyers give them too many chances. Back to back penalties, 5 on 3's and majors CANNOT happen.
The Flyers and Penguins have had 2 of the best power plays in the league both in the regular season and into the playoffs. So the Flyers need to continue getting traffic in front of Fleury the way they did a great job, particularly with Huet, of causing havoc in front of the net with the likes of Hartnell, Knuble, Umberger, etc.
It's a fine line to walk between playing aggressive and staying out of the box. The Flyers better walk it well or they'll be done faster than you can say Penguins in 5.

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Who is the most important player in the series?
Biron is a given. As for the skaters, I'd say young Braydon Coburn with honorable mention going to Randy Jones. These guys will be paired with Hatcher and Smith, respectively. Coby and Hatch were a good shutdown defensive pairing earlier in the season and will need to be again. But Hatcher's legs were in better shape then. Now his first couple of strides look like Fred Flintstone driving his car: feet moving but not going anywhere. Coburn has to make up for that, especially against the likes of Malkin's line.
Jones will have to do a similar job, and he has the added burden of taking Timmonen's spot on the top power play unit (Coburn remains on the point for the second unit, along with Modry). Jones and Smith were a pretty regular pair for a big chunk of the year, but Smith is obviously worn down considerably. Can he be asked to give much more? Not really. The Flyers have to hope Smith can hold his own and Jones can do the extra.
And with the Richards and Carter lines being asked to play 2 way hockey and spend a lot of energy checking the Penguins top 2 lines, we are going to need to see the Briere line be the main offensive contributors at even strength.

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Can the Flyers win this series?
Sure. I felt a lot better about it before 7pm last night when I talked with Holmgren and Timmonen. But let's remember, the Flyers won't win this because just Coburn and Hatcher play well. The Flyers will need to slow Pittsburgh's big guns down with a 5 man unit and Philly is probably better equipped to do that than most other teams out there. Sure the Rangers had a few good checking CENTERS but the Flyers have whole lines who can play 2 way hockey and you need the wingers contributing in the defensive end as well.
The Flyers are also a great team creating traffic in front of the net. It's a big reason why Mike Knuble and Scott Hartnell were among the Flyers who had more than 20 goals this season. Get to Fleury, get him uncomfortable, get the messy goals. I really think his numbers are a little inflated going against a Ottawa team who was already dead and a Rangers team who struggled to score for much of the season. Look at game 5 of the Pens/Rangers series: The Rangers had no business putting that game into OT but Fleury let in 2 soft goals and gave New York life. I think Fleury is still prone to "cracking" or at least being rattled if the Flyers can get to him... Much more so than the eternally calm Marty Biron.
Philly may not be the Broad Street Bullies anymore but they will certainly try to be aggressive and physical and with the past bad blood between these teams, expect the gloves to be dropped on numerous occasions. But the Flyers MUST avoid bad penalties.
Stevens skated the same line-ups that have been the bread and butter for the Flyers lately. So no Downie or Cote to screw things up early. The rest of the team must follow suit.
Bottom line is play disciplined hockey, both from a penalty standpoint and a 5 man defensive standpoint as well.
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How will it go?
If the Flyers can somehow rally to get a split in Pittsburgh, I think they can play well at home as they have for the most part in the playoffs. Tough times like these without a huge piece to the puzzle like Kimmo should help the other guys realize they need to be on their toes for 60 minutes and reduce the mental mistakes that cost them problems at home this post-season.
Figure Pitt wins game 5 at home. If the Flyers can put themselves in a position of winning this series in 6 or 7, I think they can. I think they can put it away at home in game 6. Game 7s are always toss ups. But the key for the Flyers is to stave off an early pounding from the Penguins and find themselves in a 3-1 hole going back to Pittsburgh.

Predictions are like noses... Before Kimmo got hurt I was pretty confident the Flyers could win this in 6... now I think it goes 7 and I think thats a tough one to win in the Steel City. The Flyers have been tested in this post-season in ways the Penguins haven't. But if it does come down to that final game in the Igloo where the Penguins have played so well all year, including against the Flyers, I don't like the Flyers chances.
Hope the Flyers can do it in 6, which is a legitimate possibility, but I think it goes 7 and I think the Penguins take it.


Mike Mreczko is the Flyers Reporter for 950 ESPN Philadelphia. Email questions or comments to [email]mmreczko@950espn.com[/email] or message him on HockeyBuzz.
Filed Under:   Flyers   Penguins   Rangers   Capitals   Senators  
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